"I know you are, son and like I told you before, provided you apologise to your brother we won't talk of it again. Now are you looking forwards to seeing just how fine your fish tastes? Because I certainly am."
"Yeah, Pa I am, I can almost taste it already."
Ben sipped at his coffee and sighed, "Mmm, I'm getting hungry, I hope Hop Sing has prepared something good to compliment that fish."
"Oh he has Pa; he was making bread rolls and boiled potatoes, fresh carrots, peas and some sort of sauce to pour over the fish, he said they are now using in San Francisco, according to his Uncle."
"Mmm, stop it Hoss you're making my mouth water," Ben said, licking his lips.
"Yeah mine too," Admitted Adam.
"Supper ready, everyone wash up and sit at table!" yelled Hop Sing, from the door to the kitchen.
The boys joined their father at the table and licked their lips at the spread before them.
Just as Hoss had said, Hop Sing had prepared boiled potatoes that he had then dressed with chopped mint and butter. There was also a large tureen of peas, one of carrots and a large gravy jug with some strange looking sauce. In the middle of the table on a silver platter was the huge 5lb trout Hoss had caught, the fish in the middle of the platter surrounded with slices of lemon and lime.
"Hmm that smells mighty fine, Pa," said Adam as he settled the napkin on his lap.
"Yes, it sure does, Hop Sing has outdone himself. Hoss, I think this fish looks even bigger than it did on the line. Would you like to say the grace, son?"
"Sure Pa," agreed Hoss and he waited for everyone to bow their heads. "Lord bless this food we are about to receive, I sure hope it tastes as good as it looks. Thank you for helping me catch this huge fine fish and for letting us have such a nice day together at the lake, just Pa and us boys. Amen."
"Amen!" chorused around the table.
Ben smiled at his son's blessing and raised his head and winked at him. Hoss smiled in return and Ben raised the carving knife. "OK, so let's see if this fish tastes as good at it looks. Hoss, as you caught it, you get first pick, where would you like your portion taken from?"
"Ah, I don't mind, Pa, but I sure am hungry, so if you could hurry up please," replied the middle son.
"Well, I guess I'll make sure that you get a large slice then," said Ben ignoring the sass and he stripped back the skin of the fish and sliced into it and plated up a large fillet and handed it to Hoss, who took it from his father eagerly.
"From near the tail please, Pa."
"OK," said Ben, slicing a fillet from the tail end and passing it to Adam.
"Joe, how much fish would you like?"
"Can I have a small slice?" Little Joe asked.
Ben began to slice a small fillet of fish, but Hop Sing suddenly appeared at the table, "Master Joe's fish ready, Mr. Cartlight," he said, placing the small silver plate in front of Little Joe.
"Yes, Yes, of course! Joe, sorry I almost forgot. I asked Hop Sing to cook your biggest trout just for you," Ben said as he looked at his youngest whose eyes were growing wide.
"You mean this is my fish, Papa?" enquired the young boy.
"Yep, and it's all yours to eat, if you want to," answered Ben.
Little Joe looked down at the plate in front of him, Wow, it looks so big like this, I don't know if I can eat all of it. Little Joe swallowed and looked up at his father, "Papa, do I have to eat all of this on my own?"
Ben chuckled, "No, son, you don't have to eat it all on your own. I just thought that you might want to eat one of your own fish. It always seems to taste that little bit tastier when you eat something you had a hand catching. Eat what you want to Joseph and I'm sure that your brother will help you polish the rest off, won't you Hoss?"
Hoss nodded, "I sure will, I love trout," said Hoss, serving himself some peas.
Adam and Ben laughed. "Here let me help you with that, Joe," said Adam and he reached across and carefully pulled back the fish skin and served his little brother a small fillet from the trout.
"You're welcome little brother," replied Adam. Adam served himself a helping of potatoes, carrot and peas and then helped his youngest brother with his.
Ben meanwhile had tried the fish sauce with a spoon. "Mmm, tastes OK, Adam, Hoss you might want to try this. It's a little salty but it's nice. I'm going to try it on the trout." Ben poured a small amount on one end of his fillet and then took a piece of fish from the same end coated in the sauce and raised it to his mouth. His tongue exploded with the flavours. Ben chewed and then swallowed, "Hop Sing!"
The old cook came running out of his kitchen, "Yes, Mr. Cartlight," he answered breathlessly.
"Hop Sing, you are a master cook, what is in this fish sauce? It is simply superb; it complements the fish very well."
"Fish sauce Hop Sing's recipe, , but have new ingredient, brought from Uncle' brother-in-law who arrive in San Francisco from China last week. Fish sauce has fresh ginger, peanut oil, green onions and soy sauce which is special ingredient. Hop Sing now know recipe for soy sauce so I make in future. You like sauce a lot Mr. Cartlight?"
"Yes, it's spicy, salty and very rich but it's wonderful, have you tried it Adam?" Ben asked his eldest who had also ventured to pour some of the sauce on his fish.
Adam swallowed the mouthful of food he was eating, "Hop Sing, Pa's right this is delicious."
Hop Sing blushed at the compliment. "Thank you Master Adam, I glad you like, what about fish, it taste good?"
"The fish is excellent as usual, can't you see how Hoss isn't even talking." Said Adam.
At that Hoss swallowed the last bite of his slice of fish. "Hop Sing, you made that fish taste real fine, Pa, may I have some more?"
Ben laughed, "I think that seals it, Hop Sing, if you have Hoss' approval you can be sure that everything is wonderful," said Ben and he began slicing another fillet from the fish to place on Hoss' outstretched plate.
"I go now Mr. Cartlight, Hop Sing have apple pie in oven." Stated the cook and with that, he took off back to his kitchen.
Little Joe sat quietly enjoying the fish that he had caught. I wonder what that sauce is like. "Adam, can I try some of that sauce?"
"May I try some of that sauce you mean, Little Joe. Of course, mind though, it has a bit of a kick. Here, let me pour a small amount on the side of your plate and you can see if you like it." Adam poured the sauce on the side of Little Joe's plate near to, but not on the fish. "Try it on its own and with the fish, Joe."
Hesitantly Little Joe dipped his fork into the sauce, raise it to his mouth and carefully touched the fork to his tongue." It makes my mouth feel funny," complained Little Joe.
"Well I did tell you it had a bit of a kick, how about you try it with a piece of fish, it might not be so strange on your tongue," said Adam.
Little Joe did as his older brother suggested and both Adam and Ben watched him. Ben amazed and proud at the same time, because Little Joe rarely ate anything he wasn't familiar with and usually nothing that had a strong flavour.
"What do you think, Joseph?" Ben asked.
"Mmm, it's better with the fish than on its own, Papa but it's a bit spicy." Admitted the young boy.
"You want some more, Joe?" asked Adam.
"No, thanks," replied Little Joe who began eating the rest of his fish. Adam returned his concentration to his own meal.
After 5 minutes, Little Joe pushed his plate away having eaten everything but the fish sauce on his plate. "I'm finished, Papa, can I…" he began but changed his wording when Adam looked at him. "May I go play with my soldiers?"
Adam winked at his younger brother and Ben agreed, "You may, Joseph but only for a short while, then it's bath time and bed."
When Little Joe climbed down from the table and went up the stairs to collect his box of soldiers, Adam turned to Ben. "Pa, I think Little Joe is growing up, I never expected him to try the fish sauce, did you?"
"No son, I didn't but I am very proud of him for offering to try without being prompted. He might not like it very much but at least he wanted to try it and he made the decision himself and, when was the last time you saw your brother clear his plate of food?"
"Without being threatened, Pa…..never. You think we brought back someone else from the lake?" Adam asked his eyes smiling.
"I don't know, maybe today and the events of this week are now settled in his mind and he feels relaxed enough to want to be a little more like his older brothers. I hope so, son because meal times will be that much easier," replied Ben chuckling. He pushed his plate away and wiped his mouth with the napkin. "That's it, I'm done, the fish was wonderful but I can't eat anything else."
"Pa! Hop Sing's done made apple pie for dessert!" said Hoss, finally finishing the second slice of trout.
"Well….I think I might be able to squeeze in a small slice in a little while," Ben said winking at the two boys still at the table.
Adam finished his meal and poured himself and his father another cup of coffee. "You want a cup Hoss?" he asked.
"Nah, thanks, I'll have the lemonade," Hoss said and Adam poured his brother a glass of lemonade.
Little Joe came down the stairs and sat down on the sofa next to the coffee table and started setting up his soldiers into groups. "Joseph, would you like some of this lemonade?" Ben asked.
"Yes please, Papa," Little Joe replied.
"I'll take it to him, Pa, may I be excused?" Adam asked.
"Yes you may."
Adam poured a small glass of lemonade and then rose from the table and went and sat down on the armchair by the coffee table. "Here's your lemonade, Joe. Hey, you want to play soldiers with me little buddy?"
"Really? You wanna play soldiers with me?"
"Yeah, why not, they were my soldiers when I was your age. Besides Pa said you only have a little while before bath time and I don't play enough with you Joe."
Little Joe cocked his head and eyed his older brother up, but unable to come up with a reason why his brother would be trying to tease him, he nodded to the soldiers he had already placed on the table near Adam. "You can have those two groups."
Adam smiled at his little brother and he began adjusting his men into place.
Adam and Little Joe played soldiers for 20 minutes, the battle getting louder and louder as each marshalled their troops. "BOYS!" yelled Ben.
Both Adam and Little Joe jumped at the yelling and looked up to see Ben sitting at his desk looking like he was filling in paperwork. "Sorry, Pa," said Adam sheepishly.
Ben shook his head wryly, Joe he expected to get loud, but Adam….."Well play quietly then." He commanded before looking back down at his books and hiding a smile.
Having finished his food and cleared the table as it was his turn to help Hop Sing, Hoss came and sat down on the sofa next to his younger brother and watched the battle, urging Little Joe on and pointing out when Adam was trying to outflank him.
Ben was actually not working on his books as much as trying to find the words to write a letter to Adam's grandfather. Finding himself unable to concentrate due to the rising noise from the war game going on, he decided that coffee and apple pie would be the order of the moment. Just then as if by magic, Hop Sing came out from the kitchen, "BOYS NO YELL, ALWAYS YELL, HOP SING GET HEADACHE." He yelled, whilst carrying in a large tray with a fresh pot of coffee, two cups of hot chocolate and four bowls of apple pie and ice cream.
"Alright boys, time to stop this battle. Back to the table for apple pie and ice cream." Commanded Ben.
He went and took his place at the table and was quickly joined by his three sons. "Joseph, when you have eaten this, you will clear away your soldiers and go for your bath."
"Aw Papa, do I gotta, I don't want a bath?" whined the six year old.
"Well you are having one just the same, Joseph. Hoss, you will have a bath after your brother and then it will be straight to bed for the both of you. Hoss, I will take you to town tomorrow to buy some new boots for school and Joseph we might even stop at the mercantile if you are good, for some peppermint sticks."
"I'll be good, Papa," agreed the youngest Cartwright and he started eating the apple pie and ice cream in front of him.
Bath done, Ben helped Little Joe into his clean nightgown and carried the now sleepy little boy up to his and Hoss' room. Turning back the covers, he waited for his youngest to climb into bed and raising the covers he tucked Little Joe in. "Would you like a story?"
"Uh huh," agreed the young boy nodding his head on the pillow and yawning. "Papa, can you read the one about the Fisherman and his Wife?"
"OK, why that one, Joseph?"
"I like the story, Papa and it's the only one I can remember had fishing in and the fisherman catches a big fish, just like Hoss did today." Answered Little Joe.
Ben chuckled, "OK, son," and he collected the chair from the desk and placing it by the side of his youngest bed he sat down, opened the book for fairy tales and finding the story he began to read.
Ben was almost half way through the story when Hoss entered the room, "Get into bed, son and I'll tuck you in when I've finished this story to your brother."
Hoss put his boots on the floor and climbed into bed, pulled his covers up and he lay on his side, facing his younger brother and father, whilst he listened to Ben reading the story.
Ben finished the story of the Fisherman and His Wife and closing the story book he put it on the bedside table and kissed the already asleep, young boy on the head. "Goodnight, Joseph, sleep tight."
Ben removed the wooden chair from beside the bed and returned it to the desk. Turning he faced Hoss' bed. Hoss was lying awake watching his father. "Pa," he whispered.
Ben walked across the room, "Yes son?"
"You know Joe was asleep long before you were finished don't ya!"
"Yes, I know, but you were listening and I think your brother finds someone being nearby before he gets into a deep sleep comforting." Ben tucked the covers around his middle child and kissed him lightly on the temple. "Goodnight, Hoss."
"Night, Pa." Hoss replied and he closed his eyes.
Ben turned down the nightlight and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Ben walked down the stairs to the main room and found Adam setting up the checkerboard, "Want to join me for a game, Pa?"
"Sure, why not, any coffee available?"
"Yep, Hop Sing just brought some out," Adam said and he poured Ben a cup and handed it to his father as he took the seat across from him.
Ben sipped at the coffee gratefully. "Ah…that's good."
Adam took one of each counter from the setup checkerboard and hid them behind his back, returning them to the front with one sealed tightly in each hand, "Choose your colour, Pa."
Ben tapped Adam's right hand and Adam opened it to display the red counter, "Looks like I'm black then, your move first, Pa." Adam returned the counters back to the board.
Ben sat back, took a long drink of his coffee and then moved the first counter.
Four games later and it was tied two each, "OK Adam, last game because I'm bushed," said Ben stretching.
Adam yawned as he placed the counter back on the board ready to start, "OK, Pa, I'm about ready for bed too. Gotta get back to normal work tomorrow."
"Mr. Cartlight, you need anything else tonight?" Hop Sing asked from the kitchen door just as Ben moved his first counter of the fifth game.
"No, Hop Sing, you may go rest. Thank you for such a wonderful meal tonight, you outdid yourself," answered Ben.
"You welcome Mr. Cartlight. Goodnight. Goodnight, Master Adam."
"Goodnight, Hop Sing."
Adam won the last game of checkers, cornering his father and then capturing 5 counters all at once.
Ben stared at the board in disgust for a moment, before holding out his hand, "Well played son, well played."
"Ah, Pa I only got you because you are tired," said Adam as he rubbed his face.
"You are tired too son and it's fine, you beat me fair and square…. Now I think we should pack the board and counters up and let's go to bed."
"I'll put everything away Pa and follow you up," said Adam starting to pack the counters into the box.
"Alright son, goodnight,"
"Goodnight, Pa." When Ben stood up and turned towards the staircase Adam continued, "Pa…I'm real glad you are back home and that this challenging week is over. I'm sorry for the stuff at the saloon and for my behaviour when I ran away with a temper but I'm glad that you realise I'm growing up. I can't promise that I'll do everything I'm supposed to as an adult but I promise that I will always respect your right to pull me into line if I need it."
Ben turned back to face his eldest and smiled, "Come here, son." He asked softly.
Adam stopped what he was doing and approached his father and was pulled into a bear hug. "Adam, my son, I am very proud of the fine young man you are becoming. If you still wish to attend that college I'll write to your grandfather in the morning and ask him if you can stay there and you can collect an application from the schoolteacher. I'll pay for your tuition if that scholarship is not available anymore."
"Really, Pa, I can go? I thought you said no son of yours was going to waste four years sitting on his backside when he could be working on the ranch." Adam said excitedly.
"I know I did Adam, but you have finally shown me just how mature you are, not only can you run this ranch practically single-handed and you can look after your brothers at the same time, but you know what finally swung it for you?" Asked Ben as he leant back so he could look into Adams eyes.
"Well son, it was when you admitted that you were wrong and came back to the ranch and apologised like a man. I knew then that you could be trusted to be so far away from me. You don't have to go of course, but if you want to now or in the future I will not stand in your way." Ben clapped Adam on the back and released him to step back.
"Thanks Pa, but you know it was Will that really talked me into coming home when I did."
"Yes son, I knew it was, but Will didn't make you do that, he just pointed out the truth as he saw it and then he waited for you to make the right decision and you did. Adam, sometimes it's friends and sometimes it's our parents that point the way but at the end of the day, unless someone puts a gun to our heads, then we must make the decision to do something ourselves. And, you made that decision, knowing that there would probably be severe consequences when you returned home. I can't ask any more of you as a boy or a man. I am now sure that whatever happens you have the right morals to do the right thing and that will be really important if you are to really make your own way in life. College life will I'm sure present many challenges to your morals and it will be up to you to resist more than just a friend offering a beer. Now you make your decision about college and let me know and I'll write to your grandfather. Goodnight son."
"Goodnight, Pa, I love you."
"And I love you too, son." And with that Ben turned and made his way slowly up the stairs, whilst Adam returned to the coffee table to put away the checkerboard with tears of joy in his eyes.
Author's note: OK everyone so this is the end of my first Bonanza story. I know that it started off a little differently but I'd like people to remember that I had not written fiction since I was around 13 and that was a very long time ago! I did consider going back and "fixing" the early chapters i now feel differently about but have decided to leave them be as it stands for time that my writing has improved as the story wnet on, if people don't make it to that part of the story then...
I'd like to thank everyone who is still reading for doing so and I truly hope that you have enjoyed reading the story as much as I have writing it. I have a had a solid core of people reviewing every chapter and it is to them that I give my thanks too, you have all been so supportive. And finally I'd like to say a public thanks to my beta, Little Leaf of the Redwoods who has been so supportive of me, giving tips and wonderful feedback along this journey. Little Leaf you are I hope fully aware of how much I value your support, I couldn't have completed this story without you :)
I have a few other stories I will hopefully be able to work on a little more now and there are more in the pipeline so if you have been in anyway entertained then keep your eyes out for another story. If you have any requests or suggestions for new stories or plotline or even constructive comments to improve my writing them feel free to pm me.
thanks once again